Incentive Pay Considered Harmful

  • Joel Spolsky


Mike Murray, a former HR manager at Microsoft, made a number of goofs, but the doozie was introducing a “Ship It” award shortly after he started the job. The idea was that you would get a big Lucite tombstone the size of a dictionary when your product shipped. This was somehow supposed to give you an incentive to work, you see, because if you didn’t do your job—no Lucite for you! Makes you wonder how Microsoft ever shipped software before the Lucite slab.


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  1. 1.
    Douglas Coupland, Microserfs (ReganBooks, 1996).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 10. Also online at
  3. 3.
    Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, Second Edition (Dorset House, 1999), p. 132–139.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Alfie Kohn, “Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work.” Harvard Business Review,September 1, 1993. See

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© Joel Spolsky 2004

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  • Joel Spolsky

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